Is Congress wasting its time and effort in passing a supplemental budget?
The House of Representatives is in a rush to approve the P14.6-billion supplemental budget sourced from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) that was recently declared by the Supreme Court (SC) as unconstitutional.
But advocates for budget transparency and accountability claimed that there is no need for Congress to create one since President Benigno Aquino 3rd can easily allocate the funds available to where it is needed.
They believed that it is the nature of the program and the disbursement process—not the money allocated for it—that was declared illegal by the High Court.
The SC said that PDAF is unlawful because it “allowed legislators to wield, in varying gradations, non-oversight, post-enactment authority in vital areas of budget executions [thus violating]the principle of separation of powers.”
The sources who requested anonymity said that Aquino can simply realign the funds appropriated for PDAF to other programs to be spent without Congress’ prior scrutiny and approval since the controversial fund is under his discretion.
PDAF, under the 2013 General Appropriations Act (GAA), is bracketed under the Special Purpose Funds (SPF), or what critics often call as the “presidential pork.” This fund is under the supervision and discretion of
the executive department.
So technically, since the SC declared PDAF as unconstitutional, the funds appropriated under it automatically becomes savings, the sources said.
While Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. did not confirm or deny the correctness of the argument, he said that the lawmakers moved for the creation of a supplemental budget to make sure that the PDAF is released from the National Treasury.
“Buti na yung sigurado [It’s better to be sure] because the money [should]revert to the National Treasury according to the SC,” Belmonte said in a text message.
The supplemental budget, also known as House Bill No. 3423, has been certified as urgent by President Benigno Aquino 3rd. It was passed on Wednesday by the Committee on Appropriations and will be tackled at the plenary for debates on December 2.
Once approved, the funds will be used for the rehabilitation of areas devastated by super typhoon Yolanda and other provinces struck by natural and man-made disasters.